Carla almost crashed the car yesterday after a heavy downpour turned a three-lane freeway slippery. The SUV swerved and covered the width of the freeway when she tried to avoid a speeding car that suddenly changed lanes. She stepped on the brakes so she wouldn’t bump the car and the SUV skidded through the highway and did what could have been a lethal pirouet in front of other speeding cars. Miraculously in that rush hour, no one got hit and the motorists behind her were alert enough to avert the potential disaster.
Good thing also that Carla did not panic and just let the brakes and the gas pedal go. If she hadn’t, the car could have flipped over or slammed straight into the walls lining the freeway. As if to remind us about road safety, we saw on that very same day an overturned vehicle of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (see picture). Thankfully, the driver was safe but visibly shaken. It could have been worse.
Accidents could happen to anyone at any time. It helps a lot to review the basics of road safety. In these rainy days, here are a few tips from the National Safety Council on skidding and hydro-planing:
Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience.
Skids are scary but hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking.
Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires.
Taking these simple tips into account can save your life.
- You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.
- If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.
- Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don’t put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
- If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.
- A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.